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Four simple sites that empower charities

  • Myfanwy Nixon is the Marketing and Communications manager at mySociety, a charity that builds digital technologies that open up access to democracy. Starting as a UK concern, the organisation now works globally to help people deploy their software and empower their own citizens.

    For over a decade, mySociety has been running well-known and much-used websites that empower citizens — but you may be unaware that they all have features that can benefit charities, too.

    Here are four ways in which charities can use mySociety sites. They’ll all give you a helping hand in your day-to-day work, and they’re all completely free to use.

    Simple campaigning software

    If you ever ask your supporters to contact their MP, MEPs, or other elected representatives, you’ll know that that’s much more likely to happen if they don’t have to leave your website to do so.

    The functionality behind WriteToThem, mySociety’s contact-your-representative site, can be placed right on your own campaign page. Even better, your supporters don’t need to know the name of their representative before they send their message: WriteToThem works it out from their postcode.

    You can find full details for embedding the WriteToThem technology on your website here.

    Keep an eye on Parliament

     

    For all sorts of reasons, it’s useful to know when key topics are being debated in Parliament: you can lobby MPs, monitor which representatives are sympathetic to your cause, put out newsletters while public interest is high, or tie activities in with stories in the news.

    But how do you make sure you’re not taken by surprise? TheyWorkForYou is mySociety’s parliamentary site, which publishes all of Hansard. It also displays forthcoming events.

    So far so good, but the site really comes into its own with its alerts service. Input the keywords which interest you, and it will send you an email every time they are mentioned in Parliament, or in Parliament’s future schedule.

    Find out how to set up your alerts for forthcoming business here. And this post explains how to receive an alert every time your chosen keyword has been mentioned in the day’s proceedings.

    A powerful research tool

    If your campaigning depends on facts, figures and maybe even previously-buried information, then the Freedom of Information Act could be a very useful tool. It gives everyone the right to ask for information from publicly-funded bodies.

    WhatDoTheyKnow makes the perhaps-daunting process of submitting an FOI request very simple indeed. It also publishes the responses in a vast online archive, so you can search through information that has already been released, too.

    Here is a step-by-step guide to making a request via the site.

    Improving communities

    FixMyStreet makes it really easy to report problems like broken paving, potholes or rubbish to the people responsible for getting them fixed.

    If you are a charity working within a local community, input your postcode for a quick browse of the site: this can be an immediate way to find out what the main issues are in your own neighbourhood. if you’d like this information to drop right into your inbox, sign up to receive an alert every time someone makes a report in your chosen area.

    FixMyStreet also provides an excellent way of keeping track of the improvements and repairs you have requested - reports are published online as well as being sent to the council.

    And if you’re a charity campaigning on behalf of people with poor mobility, sight impairment, et cetera, FixMyStreet can also be a useful resource for your supporters: they can use it to campaign in their own local area, against unsafe streets, unlit byways or inadequate parking spaces, and so on.

    mySociety

    If you’d like to find out more about our work, visit www.mysociety.org, where you can see lots more about what we do.

     

     

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